Chapter 4



Getting the Bird


 One of the delights of playing with a village band rather than a city band is the type of people you meet. This is not to decry either country or city folk for both have their good points but, despite the regular invasions from the city, the northern countryman still retains that simplicity of outlook so beloved of music hall comedians over the years. The problems faced by country folk are generally down to earth and unique and, even when the person in question commutes and works in the city, the qualities needed to cope with these and the accompanying wry sense of humour persist. This was the case when, calamity of calamities, the drummer's septic tank ceased to function. The principle of a septic tank is that it contains a large resident colony of friendly bacteria who happily munch away at any effluent and waste pumped their way. In this case, after years of faithful service, they had all up and died and the unsavoury waste was doing its best to fight its way out of the tank. Rapidly, arrangements were made for the tank to be pumped out and cleaned, a costly affair which strikes at the heart of any countryman, and particularly that of Bill Jackson. Bill has the appearance and demeanour of the archetypal country farmer although his family has not actually farmed for several generations. Ruddy of face and heavily built he can generally be seen when in the village, dressed in old heavy tweeds and large leather boots and a soft tweed hat pushed back on his head. His speech is gentle but with a very pronounced local accent, all belying the fact that during the week he is a director on the boards of several city companies and runs a very successful steel supply company. Like many of his fellow country folks, Bill chooses not to publicise the substantial wealth he undoubtedly possesses and falls naturally into the guise of a country yokel. The defunct septic tank, however, was outside Bill's normal sphere of operations but nevertheless he was determined that he would deal with the problem himself and not squander any more of his hard won money on the task than was absolutely necessary. Enquiries in the usual starting place of the public bar of the Millers' Arms soon suggested that a replacement family of bacteria to occupy his now vacant septic tank may be found at Gillings hardware store in the nearby market town of Wenlock - in - the - Water. It was a full day's outing to Wenlock by bus, Bill hated driving his car as he was convinced that no farmer had full control of his tractor and would therefore inevitably run into him, and it was not until late evening that he reappeared at the Millers' Arms. His return had been eagerly awaited by the clientele.

"Did you get your bugs then?" he was asked almost before he had got through the door.

"Nay lad," replied Bill "if they think I'm paying forty quid for a bucket of bugs they can think again".

"Forty quid, that's a bit steep isn't it?" sympathised one of the Brook brothers, "How do they justify that kind of a price for some old bugs?"

"I suppose it's the cost of training 'em" suggested Dick Harding.

"No, it's for choosing the ones with no sense of smell!" shouted Mandy from the pool table.

"What will you do then?" asked the barmaid.

"Well, it's funny but, on the bus home, I was talking to an old chap who reckoned that if I throw a dead hen or lamb in, then that'll do the trick".

"Oh! have a word with Joe from t'Top Farm then" chipped in the landlord "I heard him telling Fran that one of his cockerels has just committed suicide."

So, a visit to the adjoining games room produced a fascinating tale of a lovelorn cockerel which had been found dead in a water trough below its favourite perch, quite obviously having cast itself in in a fit of jilted depression. Several drinks later, a promise was elicited that the dead bird would be delivered to Bill on the following day for consignment into a worthy grave. Unfortunately, Joe's memory had deteriorated with age and the effects of alcohol and it was almost a week before the constant nightly reminders eased their way into his brain and he remembered to pick up the cockerel. It was Sunday and the bar was, as usual, full of city types with their girlfriends. Band practice had just finished and there was a great deal of laughter and animated conversation when Joe entered with a rather tatty carrier bag and pushed his way to the bar.

"Has tha seen Bill yet" he said "only I've got him that there cockerel."

With this, he hoisted the carrier skywards to emphasise his point and, as he did so, the rather sorry and bedraggled looking head of the bird fell through a hole in the bag bottom, swinging like a pendulum on the end of a scrawny neck which was rapidly trying to relieve itself of all its feathers. The room instantly fell silent and a clear path opened towards the tables around which the band were gathered. Seeing Bill, Joe waved and sidled across, dumping the carrier unceremoniously on the table and so causing the unfortunate bird to headbutt a glass, the contents of which cascaded over the floor. All eyes were focused on Bill as he thanked Joe, wincing a little as, reaching over the table to shake hands, the perfume of the long dead bird reached his nostrils. Looking back at the band, Bill took his cue and excused himself, retreating with his prize to re-fertilise his waste disposal system. The next time the band met, Bill was all smiles. The cockerel had indeed 'done the trick' and his septic tank was again fully functional - and at no cost to its owner!

  This work is Copyright to Ian W. Wright 1994. You may use it for your own private purposes but reproduction by any means or its use for commercial gain is strictly forbidden without the written permission of the author.

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